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ECtHR, XX v. France, No. 70204/01, 2007
  • 2007
  • France
Left-wing extremism Violent extremism Public security
Legal bases
European Convention on Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)
Right to a fair trial Proportionality Torture, degrading and inhuman and treatment Right to an effective remedy

XX (French national) was a former member of the extreme left armed movement “Action Directe” and was, at the time of the judgement, serving a sentence of life imprisonment in France. He has been found guilty of attempted murder, armed robbery and hostage taking committed in order to facilitate or prepare the commission of a criminal offence or serious crime. He complained about strip searches imposed on him while in prison. In addition, a ministerial circular prohibited all correspondence between the applicant and friends or relatives.

Legal grounds

Articles 3, 8, 13, 6§1 of the ECHR


The Court held that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention, noting in particular that the feeling of arbitrariness, the feelings of inferiority and anxiety often associated with it, and the feeling of a serious encroachment on one’s dignity undoubtedly prompted by the obligation to undress in front of another person and submit to a visual inspection of the anus, added to the other excessively intimate measures associated with strip-searches, led to a degree of humiliation which exceeded that which was inevitably a concomitant of the imposition of body searches on prisoners. In addition, the humiliation felt by the applicant had been aggravated by the fact that on a number of occasions his refusal to comply with these measures had resulted in his being taken to a disciplinary cell. The Court also held that there had been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention in respect of the refusal on the basis of a ministerial circular to forward a prisoner’s letter to a fellow prisoner. In addition, the Court found a violation of Article 13 of the Convention in respect of the lack of domestic remedy enabling a prisoner to challenge a refusal to forward correspondence.